Conservation coalition members are calling on Congress to increase funding in the 2018 farm bill and to strengthen current conservation efforts to ensure farmers, ranchers, and foresters can effectively access those programs.
The consensus recommendations were released Sept. 27 with more than 20 organizations who contributed input and were listed as supporters. The consensus document is asking for a substantial increase in funding for Title II conservation programs, but supporters make it clear they don’t want these funds to come at the expense of other programs in Title II. One of the organizations supporting the set of recommendations is the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Alyssa Charney, policy specialist at NSAC, told Bloomberg BNA the intent of the documents are to show big picture priorities for conservation groups rather than specific figures.
The set of recommendations highlight a number of programs with detailed lists of necessary changes and several conservation provisions that also need changes. Although conservation advocates are asking to increase funding in programs they are also looking to change the requirements for some.
The Conservation Reserve Program in particular was modified in the 2014 farm bill and conservation proponents are looking to change it again. The program’s purpose is to conserve and improve soil and water quality by providing cost-share and rental payments for farmers who conserve parts of their land from production. But due to market conditions and arbitrary budget constraints the acreage cap was cut from 32 million acres to 24 million acres. Now supporters are urging Congress to increase the CRP acreage cap in the 2018 farm bill.
Additionally, the consensus recommendations are asking Congress to realign the crop insurance program so it doesn’t hinder conservation including realigning the Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency policies with conservation practices that decrease yield risk and improve sustainable production.
The current farm bill will expire at the end of the 2018 fiscal year, but for these conservation groups lobbying efforts for the next farm bill are just beginning.
Matt Perdue, government relations representative at National Farmers Union, told Bloomberg BNA all of the groups involved in the consensus recommendations will be using the document, along with other specific priorities in their lobbying efforts.
Programs in the set of consensus recommendations include the:
“It will be a challenging road ahead,” said Charney, but with conservation “the need is pretty clear.”
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